The world of Nick Sellers, CEO of the biggest sporting event in Alabama history

0

Nick Sellers, CEO of The 2022 World Gameshas fond memories of his late grandfather, Sam “Bosco” Giambrone, a first-generation American from Sicily, an autonomous region of Italy.

Giambrone grew up very poor, selling fruit on Morris Avenue in Birmingham in baskets for Central Paper Co. He worked there for nearly 60 years, eventually selling paper goods to iconic Birmingham restaurants like Gus’ Hot DogsPete’s hot dogs and Sneaky Pete.

The 2022 World Games are Birmingham’s opportunity to shine to a global audience. (contributed)

“They were like, ‘Just tell me what I need. I trust you,” the sellers who told Giambrone recalled. “He was looking at their inventory of napkins, paper cups and paper plates, and he was filling it up. They trusted him completely.

The grandson has earned the same level of trust as he leads a team of around 70 on the Birmingham Organizing Committee behind the arrival of TWG 2022 in town.

“You have to earn that trust over time,” said Sellers, who became CEO in 2019 when veteran event organizer DJ Mackovets stepped down after two years. “My grandfather earned it every day with his clients, through years and years of relationships and experiences. That’s what it’s all about, building trust through years of relationships and experiences.

“I’ve tried to do that in my professional life and in my personal life: build friendships with real, genuine people and try to be me,” Sellers said.

The 2022 TWG, which will attract elite athletes from over 100 countries around the world, will take place from July 7-17 at venues in the Birmingham area including Protective stage, Legion Field, Legacy Arenathe Birmingham CrossPlex, Sloss Ovens and the Hoover Metropolitan Complex.

The event takes place every four years in the year following each Summer Olympics. The World Games represent the pinnacle of competition for 3,600 of the world’s best athletes in more than 30 multidisciplinary sports, including billiards, archery and dance.

A visionary

So who is Nick Sellers?

“He’s a guy who loves his family very much, loves his friends very much and his city very much,” he said in an interview with the Birmingham Times. “I just want to do my best to help Birmingham, help Alabama. That’s really who I am. I just want to make sure I’m on a team that’s committed to something bigger than me. and try to help leave things better than I found them.

Gene HallmanCEO of the Alabama Athletic Foundationsaid Sellers is one of those rare people who can make things happen.

Sellers “is an extremely driven, high-energy person,” Hallman said. “He is very talented and has a good view of what needs to be done in a business environment. The best way to put it: he gets things done.

“The work he has done (TWG 2022) is outstanding. He is the director of the orchestra, making sure that all the pieces in the orchestra play a tune that people will enjoy. I think we are on the cusp of the most successful World Games in history.

Rashada LeRoyCEO of LRY Media Groupwho produces the opening and closing ceremonies for TWG 2022, said Sellers leads the team in the spirit of deep collaboration.

Sellers “is truly a visionary. He’s very creative,” LeRoy said. “He is that mastermind behind the operational piece that holds us all together. It brings a level of excitement to our planning, to the ideas that we have.

“It’s been really great to work with (Sellers), to see how he thinks about these Games and how he uses his expertise to really bring it all together.”

RELATED: Meet the ‘dream team’ behind the 2022 World Games

Sellers, 48, is a father of three: Annie, Maria and Nicholas Jr. The Homewood resident and his wife, Julie, will reach their 25th wedding anniversary during the Games on July 12, but the real celebration will have to wait .

Nick Sellers sees the 2022 World Games as a special opportunity and the race of a lifetime. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./The Birmingham Times)

“We said we were going on a trip as I was going to rest and sleep after the Games were over,” he said. “During the World Games, she volunteers and I will work long, long days. We’re just gonna celebrate it when we see each other someday that day.

Vendors helped lead Power of Alabama’s Mobile Division when the CEO of the utility, Marc Crosswhite, held out his hand. Crosswhite and jonathan porterAPC’s senior vice president of customer operations, wanted to leverage Sellers’ sports experience to help lead the World Games which they hoped would reintroduce Birmingham and the rest of Alabama to the world.

“It was just a very special opportunity,” Sellers said. “I had no idea it was going to happen. I’m so grateful to them for thinking of me and giving me my chance. It was the ride of a lifetime.

The quarterback

Sellers has deep ties to Birmingham. His father was from Gardendale, his mother from Hoover. He attended Our Lady of Sorrowsa Catholic school in Homewood, where he met his wife.

“We knew each other when we were kids and I moved away,” Sellers recalled. “My mother remarried. I moved to Colorado and then to California, and came back to visit my dad after college.

It was during this visit that Sellers met Julie, whom he had not seen since they were at school. Less than six months later, they were engaged.

“Since then, I have been back (in Birmingham). It was 1996,” Sellers said. “This is home. Always will be.”

Athletically, Sellers was a late bloomer, standing just 5ft 2in as a freshman at Folsom High School (California). But his lack of early height didn’t diminish his dream of being a starting quarterback in college. The QB prospect was third on Folsom’s football team when he was told he needed to consider another sport.

“Thank God I started growing in my second year,” he said. “I just kept working and working and grinding, and I won the starting job.”

Sellers’ dream was to play college football against the best in the country. He realized that dream in 1995, when he started under center when the Pacific University of the Pacific Tigers played the No. 1 University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. The game was featured on ESPN Sports Center, as Tommy Frazier, a Heisman Trophy finalist signalman, led the Cornhuskers to a 49-7 victory. The Sellers had more passing yards (132) than Frazier (90) in that game, but the Cornhuskers did their damage on the ground, amassing 569 rushing yards. Still, sellers relished the opportunity.

“It was a pretty special experience,” said Sellers, who threw a 12-yard touchdown pass for Pacific’s only score. “It was kind of a moment where I just looked up and thanked God for being able to achieve what I dreamed of.”

The foundation

After college, Sellers considered pursuing a career in broadcasting or sports management. He started out as a night DJ at Magic 96 in Birmingham, working weekends, midnight to 7am

“(Local sports broadcasters) Paul Finebaum and John Forney would do their pre-game football show in Alabama,” Sellers recalled. “I was making coffee for them and sitting in the control room, and a young guy kept coming up talking about Olympic football.”

That man was Hallman, CEO of the Alabama Sports Foundation (ASF), and the budding broadcaster decided to get Hallman to hire him.

Nick Sellers at the end of 2019, after being named CEO of The World Games. His diverse background has included being a starting quarterback for the University of the Pacific and a night DJ on Magic 96 as well as jobs with the Alabama Sports Foundation, Business Council of Alabama and Alabama Power. (contributed)

“(Hallman) laughs and says, ‘I was going to have to give (Sellers) a job or put him on a restraining order,'” Sellers recalled jokingly. “I just pissed him off.”

Hallman remembers his second encounter with the salesmen more clearly. Vendors saw the ASF CEO live on TV as he made a charity check presentation during the Tradition Regions golf tournament.

The salespeople “put on his coat and tie, went over to where I was, said, ‘I want to come work for you,’ and gave me his resume,” Hallman recalled. “It impressed me so much that I brought him in for an interview and hired him.”

Hired as director of operations for the ASF, Sellers worked with the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournamentthe Magical Town Classic and the Davis Cup tennis tournament, among other projects. From there he moved to Alabama Business Councilworked for two years in economic development under Governor Don Siegelman, then joined Alabama Power, from which he is now on loan to lead the 2022 TWG.

Similar to his role as a college quarterback, Sellers is the face of TWG 2022 and knows that when leading a team, there’s nothing wrong with “healthy anxiety.”

“All of us in our team I think have a healthy level of anxiety about what it means and the responsibility (to) present Birmingham in a first class way for our community, for the people we live with and share the community with,” Sellers said. “…I’ll tell you, that bit of anxiety is really what drives us and gives us the adrenaline to secure ‘one of the most successful World Games in history.’

For more information on the 2022 World Games, visit twg2022.com.

This story was originally posted by The Birmingham Times.

Share.

Comments are closed.